empathy, inclusive workplace


Empathy should emanate through the organisation, where employees make a collective effort to foster a deeper sense of inclusion, experts from Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) point out.

What does it mean to be an inclusive employer amidst growing diversity in the workplace? Beyond being fair in employment practices, it is also about using values such as empathy, altruism, and compassion to shape an inclusive workplace culture where everyone feels that they belong.

Creating an inclusive organisation leads to a winning and harmonious workplace, where employees are more engaged and productive, according to studies from McKinsey.

Here are three ways for employers to build an inclusive workplace with empathy:

1. Value differences

Having employees with a variety of experiences or backgrounds prevents groupthink and provides better solutions to issues.

Valuing differences also means showing empathy in considering the person as a whole, and not just viewing them as mere manpower to achieve business results. For example, do we judge people by the way they speak or are we able to accept and embrace the cultural differences reflected in the way they communicate arising from a diverse workforce?

Employees who do not feel the need to "code switch" at work, using diction or references they would not normally use, are more comfortable offering opinions based on their experiences. When employees feel their unique voices are heard, they become more confident in their contributions.

2. Be sensitive and proactive

As an employer with empathy, you can help your staff feel included by identifying exclusionary behaviour and being proactive in addressing it. It may not be easy to spot these individual incidents, but some company-wide occurrences require closer attention. For instance, is there a tendency to use non-English languages at the workplace that may exclude certain employees from the conversation?

Of course, not all practices that may exclude some employees are considered discriminatory. For example, a “Bring a Child to Work Day” can be enjoyed by all at the office, whether one has children or not.

3. Forge bonds

Empathy should emanate through the organisation, where employees make a collective effort to foster a deeper sense of inclusion.

Employers can organise bonding activities, such as corporate social responsibility initiatives. This allows employees to build deeper relationships while contributing to the common good. Activities can also promote cross-cultural understanding and competencies, bridge gaps, and strengthen bonds.

An example is to assign local colleagues as buddies to foreign employees, where the former can share more about Singapore’s socio-cultural norms to help the latter settle in.

Empathy is a crucial ingredient at the workplace, resulting in a more inclusive culture with better-engaged employees. Be proactive in addressing gaps that may undermine inclusion efforts and prevent exclusionary practices from becoming entrenched as organisational culture.

Tap on the Fair and Progressive Employment Index (FPEI), a free online self-assessment tool to evaluate your organisation’s workplace culture today.

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